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Known for Innovation, Seattle Welcomes IHL Exploration

In a bustling convention center amidst more than 4,100 independent school leaders, teachers, best-selling authors, exhibitors and even Bill Gates – there was me. I’m Kathryn Bluher, the AmeriCorps Communications Coordinator for the American Red Cross Chapter serving King and Kitsap Counties in Washington state.

As I walked into the Washington State Convention Center for the 2012 NAIS Annual Conference I was overwhelmed by the electricity in the air. Hundreds of individuals passed by my side as I stood frozen taking in the sights and sounds of educational inspiration. In a city well-known for its technological spirit and innovation, Seattle was an ideal host for a conference intended to celebrate educational ingenuity. It was also the perfect environment to highlight the American Red Cross Exploring Humanitarian Law curriculum.

In between workshops where educators were learning “Best Practices on Engaging Students in Social Change,” I watched as the Red Cross International Services Team challenged these same individuals to engage students in social change by exploring humanitarian law. It was their goal throughout the conference to raise awareness for the curriculum and to cultivate a passion for examining current global issues in the classroom. It was truly inspiring to watch the team work.

From apartheid in South Africa to the use of child soldiers in conflicts, the free curriculum explores these topics while fitting seamlessly into courses including social studies, history, law, literature and civics. The EHL toolkit of resources helps build students’ analytical skills by opening their minds to differing global perspectives and facilitating discussions that tackle current realities. Our world today is comprised of complex global issues and it is our duty to adapt and learn from these complexities. From World War II to the violence inDarfur, it is our job to help young people understand humanity, life and dignity. Through EHL we can make a difference; we can expand students’ understanding of conflict and its interconnectedness with the rights and protections of people.

“This is something everyone should know,” said EHL Master Educator Joanne Dufour.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

“It lends itself to relevant authentic issues. It offers the students a different kind of buy-in. They draw parallels in their own lives,” continued Dufour.

By taking on these global issues in the classroom and by utilizing new age technology and adaptive lesson plans we can do more than teach; we can help young people unravel and understand events that are happening in our world today. Joanne summed up the conference perfectly with one quote, “you as an individual may not be able to make the change you want to see, but collectively we can do anything.”

It is a concept that continued to resonate in my mind throughout the conference and still resonates today. Help our youth gain respect for life and human dignity. Help us educate.

Learn more about Exploring Humanitarian Law and join us for the June 25-28 Summer Institute for Educators. The institute is a professional development opportunity for educators from across the country to come together and get immersed in the materials and to leave with a whole toolkit of educational resources to engage and inspire students.